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Knowledge From the Field

Ready or Not: Creating a High School Diploma That Counts

Published: February 2004

Publisher(s): Achieve, Inc.

Funder(s): William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

View Report (128 pages; 1.74MB; PDF)

Area of Focus: Educational Standards


This report outlines concrete academic standards for high school students with the goal of providing graduates with skills that would help them succeed in college and in the work force. The standards are based on the American Diploma Project’s (ADP) benchmarks in English and mathematics, which were created using input from employers in career-oriented fields and leaders of post-secondary schools to determine the key skills necessary for success in both post-high school paths. The report details the benchmarks and their respective subject requirements, along with examples of curriculum. It prescribes actions for states, institutions of higher learning, and the federal government to enact, and contains examples from states that have worked to implement college and workplace-ready standards.

Key Findings and/or Recommendations

= States should align high school graduation requirements with real-world skills necessary in the workforce or in higher education that are validated by students’ success in those institutions.

= Colleges and employers should utilize a properly-aligned diploma for admission and employment prospective.

= Diplomas should require that all students meet certain high standards in advance of 12th grade with multiple opportunities to demonstrate proficiency.

= High school standards should be comparable between states while offering flexibility in the instruction of the curriculum.

= Once the new high school standards are in place, states should reconfigure K-12 standards to develop instruction that prepares students at every step along the path to graduation.

Geographic Focus: National

Subjects/Keywords: Education Standards; school reform; diploma; graduation; college prep; career prep; high standards

+ Successful strategy
= Observation
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